Yan Jun, a 26-year-old Chinese student majoring in economics in Osaka, has melted the hearts of some Japanese people, if not the ice of bilateral relations. His story is unusually good news amid the strained ties.
After risking his life to save a nine-year-old Japanese boy who was drowning in Osaka on Sept 16, Yan was presented with a certificate of gratitude by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his official residence in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Receiving Yan at the Imperial Palace, Japanese Emperor Akihito also praised the young Chinese student for his bravery.
While a crowd waited on the bank for professional rescuers, Yan plunged into a flooded river in Osaka - twice - to rescue the boy, who was floundering in the water, shouting and screaming.
"I knew that I could make it the second time I jumped into the water," Yan said, after the award ceremony.
He has been treated as a hero by his Japanese neighbours, friends and even strangers in Osaka. A local businessman told Yan that his brave deed had changed his impression of Chinese people.
Previously, people in the two countries had been demonstrating their aversion to each other. China-Japan relations have been in a stalemate since the Japanese government illegally "nationalised" China's Diaoyu Islands in September 2012.
A total of 92.8 per cent of Japanese people have a bad or relatively bad impression of China, while 90.1 per cent of Chinese have similar feelings towards Japan, according to the June-July poll by China Daily and the Japanese think-tank Genron NPO. It is the worst picture in almost a decade.